In the world’s smallest survey on the effects of fatherhood, Purdue University found that fathers fuel sibling rivalries. Researchers found that if adult children perceived favoritism by their father toward a sibling, it was on like Donkey Kong.
The study, called “Differential Effects of Perceptions of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Favoritism on Sibling Tension in Adulthood” enlisted (only!) 341 children of 137 “later-life families”, which is a fancy way of saying that the kids were adults and the parents were all silvery and old.
The study appeared (if you squint hard enough) in the July issue of the Journal of Gerontology. You already knew this because you get it delivered to your door and this is your primary bathroom reading.
And since you already read the study, you know that dad’s perceived favoritism was a bigger predictor of tension for daughters than sons. Perceptions of mom’s favoritism didn’t affect kids in the study.
The researchers – Megan Gilligan, J. Jill Suitor, Seoyoun Kim and Karl Pillemer – measured tension by asking questions about how many arguments among the siblings have come up. They also asked if the participants had perceived any favoritism by either mom or dad. They also asked the clincher: “To which child in your family do you think your mother/father feels the most emotional closeness?”
Most of the participants jumped up, threw back their chairs and yelled “HIM, OKAY, HIM! HE ALWAYS LOVED MY BROTHER MORE!”
Participants were then treated to a free screening of Legends of the Fall. See, that’s a funny joke because the whole movie is about sibling rivalry.
Also, none of that last part really happened, from the jumping to the movie screening. But Purdue only interviewed 341 people, they could have totally sprung for a movie and not included it in the study text. Moving along…
Researchers said that one reason for the tension over dad’s approval might be the lower life expectancy of males (76 years versus mom’s 81). In the saddest quote ever, and it’d help if you read it while looking at a doe-eyed photo of your dad, researcher J. Jill Suitor noted that the “importance of fathers’ favoritism may come from these older adults noticing many of their friends’ fathers no longer living,” RIGHT?
The researchers say that they’d like to continue studying the siblings – which sounds like great job security – and look into whether that perceived favoritism passes down to the next generation through parenting.
And I’d be remiss to not give a special thanks to JCOnline writer Hayleigh Colombo for sucker-punching dads right off the bat in her particular article on the topic by saying “Dad’s opinion matters — at least when it comes to predicting sibling relationships.”
There’s not enough sad trombones to wah-waaaaah as you read that line. Colombo, you owe your dad a Werther’s Original for that comment.